Legal Aspects of Logo Registration and Usage

Legal Aspects of Logo Registration and Usage

A logo is one of the most important elements of visual communication, which contains the key characteristics of corporate identity. Studies show that more than 60% of consumers associate logos with the quality of goods and services provided by the brand, so the importance of visual identity for business cannot be underestimated. And here we must not forget about safety, and understand all the nuances of both the legal use of other people’s logos, and the legal protection of your trademark.

A logo is an object created by creative labor, so it is protected by copyright. An organization can register a logo as a trademark and obtain the right to use the designation to identify the business. At the same time, the designer retains the copyright to the logo, unless otherwise agreed in the contract.

In this article we have tried to highlight as clearly as possible the most important points and pitfalls related to the legal use of logos, drawing your attention to what is really important to know.

Key Legal Aspects

Logo Copyright

Copyright arises for the logo developer at the moment of logo creation. There is no legal requirement to register or perform any special actions to activate protection. Copyright works worldwide for the life of the author and 70 years after his death. Protecting a logo with copyright does not mean that it must be registered. It is sufficient to obtain official proof of authorship by means of an escrow.

A contract is usually concluded between the designer and the entrepreneur, which specifies that the exclusive rights are alienated in full and transferred from the author to the customer. A transfer is necessary to legally use the logo. If a designer creates a logo as part of their employment duties, as a general rule, the exclusive rights belong to the client, unless otherwise provided.

Logo Copyright

Logo Registration

It is quite logical that a question may arise as to why a logo should be registered at all, if the client already has the rights to use it. The fact is that copyright law protects only against copying, i.e. against exact reproduction. If a competitor uses a similar logo, the claims will be unfounded. Copyright law protects against “re-works”, and it is difficult to prove that the logo was taken as a basis. But when registering a trademark, it is possible to prohibit the use of even similar designations.

Entry in the register of trademark means that the exclusive rights are acquired by the company, and the copyright also remains with the designer. But the possibilities of the right holder are expanding. A certificate from a government agency is conclusive evidence, unlike a contract.

To register a logo, it must first of all be unique, i.e. there are no similar pictorial or combined trademarks in the register; and it must comply with the legal requirements (requirements may vary from country to country).

Top 3 Mistakes in Logo Registration

Trademark registration has many nuances that only intellectual property specialists know about. But knowing what to pay attention to, you will be able to avoid the most common mistakes, because they are costly: this is lost time, wasted money and ruined nerves.

  • Unwillingness to conduct a preliminary search for similarity and identity among already registered trademarks and applications for registration before filing an application for state registration of your trademark.
  • The second most important mistake is the neglect of legislative norms when registering a trademark. Before applying for registration it is necessary to familiarize yourself with all the documentary and technical requirements.
  • Well, the most important mistake that the entrepreneur is able to make regarding trademarks – it is unwillingness to register your own trademark. In addition to all the advantages of owning your own trademark, one of the most important motives for entrepreneurs is the desire to have the rights to a completely unique trademark and proudly mark their goods and services with their own exclusive image.

Logo Registration

Key Usage Aspects

Reasons for Disputes

It would seem that there may be difficulties in using logos. But it is important to understand that the penalty for unauthorized use of another person’s logo or trademark on your website or social media is an extremely heavy fine, and using your logo without your permission can be a cause for legal action.

Apart from copying your logo or its basic elements to create a new emblem, i.e. plagiarism, there are several other reasons for legal proceedings, namely:

  • When logo placement is false, inaccurate, or misleading and could cause loss or damage to a company’s business reputation;
  • When logo is used inappropriately comparing one company’s products or services with those of a second company;
  • When the placement of a logo represents the sale, exchange or other introduction into circulation of goods, works, services;
  • When logo placement leads to unfair competition related to the acquisition and use of the exclusive right to the means of individualization of products, works or services.

How to Protect Your Rights

A logo designed by a designer for use as a trademark is subject to copyright. They are protected independently of exclusive rights to a trademark, which arise only upon registration, and exist in parallel with them.

Copyright does not require registration or any other formalities to arise, be exercised and protected. Copyright arises automatically from the date of creation of the work of graphic art. In addition, it is valid for the territory of the whole world, whereas the right to a trademark will need to be specifically acquired in the territory of each country separately.

Protect Your Rights Logo Registration

However, the presence of copyright is not enough to protect a logo from competitors when it is used in the marketplace for goods and services. There is such a way of infringement of copyright on the logo as recycling of the object, but it is difficult to prove the fact of recycling in practice.

On the contrary, a registered trademark is protected against the use by others of designations similar to the extent of confusion with it. But it requires registration in each country where it is to be used and in relation to specific goods or services.

Registering a Logo in Foreign Countries

You can apply for logo registration abroad by applying directly to the national Patent Office of the country you are interested in. However, if registration is required in several countries, such applications become cumbersome, both time-wise and financially.

Therefore, the Madrid system of trademark registration was developed, which allows you to file one application and obtain protection in several countries participating in the Madrid Agreement and its Protocol.

Registering a Logo in Foreign Countries

International registration of a logo under the Madrid system can be based on either a “basic registration” or a “basic application” filed with the national office. The term of examination of the application by the International Bureau is 4 months, following the results of which a Certificate of Registration is issued. However, the examination period in the participating countries is from 1 to 1.5 years. Before filing an international application, a preliminary check of the logo against the international database for the countries in which registration is planned should be carried out.

Conclusion

Professional designers spend a lot of time on creating a logo, and customers spend a lot of financial investments. Unfortunately, not everyone is ready to invest in creating their own visual identity, so they may use someone else’s logo, passing it off as their own. Without registering a logo as a trademark, a company may lose not only the designation that is firmly associated by consumers with a particular product, but also bear reputational risks.

In terms of legal protection, a logo is protected by copyright and will also be a means of individualization if it is registered as a trademark. In order to register a logo as a trademark, it is necessary to own the exclusive right to it. Therefore, one of the types of contracts can be concluded with the person who created the logo, which implies the transfer of the exclusive right in part or in full.

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